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    Drink Tea -- Your Skin May Thank You for It Later

    continued...

    Next, Conney and colleagues will look at whether topical caffeine prevents skin cancer from developing in mice exposed to UVB. Hopefully, within a year they will proceed with studies evaluating the effects of caffeine on sun-damaged human skin.

    "These are only studies in mice, and whether [caffeine] has potential in human [skin cells] or not I don't know," Conney says.

    In another study presented this week in San Diego at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers report that they have produced an artificial enzyme that repairs DNA damage in skin cells that is caused by the sun.

    Lead researcher Marco Jonas, PhD, tells WebMD that people known to be at high risk for skin cancer because of genetics, fair skin and eyes, or a history of sun worshipping could be screened later in life for the presence of sun damage to the DNA in their skin cells. Those with such damage could be treated with this molecule, or a similar one, to repair this DNA damage before it becomes cancerous. Jonas is a researcher at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

    This research is still in its infancy, however. The researchers say it will be at least another four months before the enzyme is tested in DNA, followed by several years of laboratory and clinical trials.

    According to senior researcher Olaf Wiest, PhD, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Notre Dame, "The idea in principle is that this could be a 'sunscreen for years after.' There is a very long time lag between the occurrence of the damage [to the skin] and the actual skin cancer. ... [During this time,] you could try to go in there and repair the damage that has been done."

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